With 13 other high school juniors by my side, we all excitedly loaded the Delta Airlines Airplane. We were completely oblivious to the adventures we were about to encounter, even as we arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport. Our stay was to include 5 days with an individual host family, then the remaining 4 days in the heart of Beijing.
The first time I met my host family was at midnight. Their apartment was in Tianjin, China; it was to be my home for the next 5 days. Without taking any formal Chinese lessons prior, I was blessed to have a host family that was willing to teach me. My host Chinese sister, Rainie, brought me to school every morning at Purple Cloud High School.
The first day was the most intimidating; I was out of my comfort zone in so many ways. New language, food, customs, appearance, rules – but I was up for the challenge and enjoyed every minute of it. Rainie’s classmates were extremely nice, and would sing songs for me and ask me to fly kites with them. My host parents sat down to have every meal with me. Whether it was squid, sea cucumber, chicken feet, boas, black fungus, dumplings, soy soaked eggs, or fruit; I ate every meal with chopsticks. I became extremely fond of the Chinese eating habits, styles and food selections.
As my stay with Rainie and her family came to an end, she brought me to unique places. On her day off of school (Sundays), we drove to the Tianjin Aquarium. I also had was taken to K-TV, which is a popular karaoke chain in China! It was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. I also was treated to numerous restaurants in Tianjin, such as Hot Pot and a place similar to Benihana (in America’s comparison). My short stay with my host family was a valuable and unforgettable experience; the second I stepped off the long bus ride from the Beijing Airport to my host family, I was completely submerged in a new world. No one speaking English, no pizza, cheeseburgers – just random parts of animals and lots of black fungus. Even the little things, such as wearing slippers inside my home, eating with chopsticks, going to school from 7:40-5:30pm, and their kite flying was the complete experience. I will never forget my host family, and Tianjin. I consider it my second home.
After being reunited with my classmates, we drove to Beijing, arriving at the Youth Friendship Hotel (XiXi Hotel). Our guide kept us busy for our last 4 days in China. I toured Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Beijing Zoo, Great Wall, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and the Bird’s Nest. I took as many photos as possible, and recorded every moment. My favorite part in Beijing was the Market. There, I learned how to barter. Not just any kind of bartering, but the Chinese way of bartering. I spent hours bickering over the sales of tea, silk scarves, tea sets, chopsticks, watches, sunglasses, bookmarks.
My short 9 days in Tianjin and Beijing came to a close. The country of China changed my perspectives of education, culture and food! Their mutual respect for each other was refreshing, and many of their eating habits would be beneficial for America. Their way of life was eye opening. I would go there over and over again if I ever had the chance. China’s truly a wonderful place, deserving the recognition of being noticed as an evolving area with great culture, food, language, sights, attractions and people!
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